In most industries and departments, the common qualifications sought are degrees at the undergraduate or graduate levels, in a core area relevant to the job at hand. Combine this with different levels of work experience and the person is set for a career in the chosen field.

The considerations are similar in HR too. If qualifications are in core or related fields and there is sufficient work experience as required, it is very helpful. A relatively recent trend though, also seen in other work domains, is the choice to opt for certifications for HR professionals. As with other domains, a certification is a testimony to the candidate possessing the latest skills and know-how in HR, and also being ready to take on higher roles and responsibilities.

What are some important things to consider?

A common question from certification aspirants is: ‘How do I study for HR certification?’ Remember always that there is no one correct or ‘best way to prepare. What works for one person may not work for another, as study habits are very personal.

When evaluating different certifications for HR, here are some essential things to look at:

  • Reputation: Always opt for an HR certification from a reputed organization or institution. Top choices include the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), Talent Management Institute (TMI), and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). An HR certification from these institutions is widely recognized and respected in the industry.
  • The breadth of certifications: Look for an institution offering a variety of certifications for HR professionals with different academic backgrounds, work experience, and interests. This is not an exhaustive list, but just shows some of the different options offered by these institutions. Some examples follow below:
  • HRCI offers Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR).
  • TMI offers Talent Management Professional (TMP) and Senior Talent Management Professional (STMP)
  • SHRM offers SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
  • Cost: HRCI exams cost between USD 400-525, TMI charges between USD 625-1,750, and at SHRM the fees range from USD 350-450.
  • Exam structure: HRCI exams typically contain 175 questions from 6 business areas. For TMI, the number is 60 questions across 4-6 areas of work, and at SHRM, the common count is 90 knowledge questions, 30 field questions, and 40-60 situational judgment questions.

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

Several tips can help a candidate to prepare for certifications for HR. Here are the top tips:

  • Know exam structure and coverage: The question areas and numbers differ widely, as explained earlier. Also, it is essential to know which knowledge areas are critical for the particular exam.
  • Research about study books and tutorials: Apart from core study material, tutorials and other guides can also give useful tips on how to take tests i.e. different approaches, what types of questions to tackle first and how, and more.
  • Plan studies: As soon as possible after signing up for the chosen exam, it is important to create a weekly study schedule with time and content assigned for preparation. This helps to keep the candidate on track for the given exam.
  • Find affiliated classes and courses: There are multiple options here. It is important to consider an HR course as against an HR certification prep course, and it helps to review the syllabus of both. Also, check with the employer about what type, of course, is covered under professional development allowances.
  • Select a study method: Choose from among preparatory classes, study groups, flashcards, and more.
  • Find study partners: It is not hard to find people who have taken the HR certification exam already or are taking it now. Their experiences and tips can be immensely helpful.
  • Attempt practice exams: These are a great simulation of the final exam.
  • Settle into a comfort zone: Make all efforts to be comfortable before giving an exam for the certifications for HR professionals. Get sufficient rest, proper meals, and whatever else is needed.